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Gone with the Wind


USA, 1939

Director: Victor Fleming

Production: Selznick International Pictures; Technicolor, 35mm; running time: 220 minutes; length: 20,300 feet. Released 15 December 1939 in Atlanta by MGM, some sources list the premiere date as 18 November 1939. Re-released 1947, 1954, 1967, 1969. Filmed 10 December 1938-August 1939 in RKO backlots and studios (rented to Selznick International for the film), and on location at Old Laskey Mesa, California. Cost: $4,250,000.

Producer: David O. Selznick; screenplay: Sidney Howard, with structural innovations by Jo Swerling and some dialogue by Ben Hecht and John van Druten, from the novel by Margaret Mitchell; uncredited directors: George Cukor and Sam Wood; photography: Ernest Haller; cameramen: Lee Garmes, Joseph Ruttenberg, Ray Rennahan, and Wilfred Cline; editors: Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom; sound recordist: Frank Maher; production designer: William Cameron Menzies; art director: Lyle Wheeler; musical score: Max Steiner; special effects: Jack Cosgrove and Lee Zavitz; costume designer: Walter Plunkett, Scarlett's hats by John Frederics; consulting historian: Wilbur G. Kurtz; dance direction: Frank Floyd and Eddie Prinz.

Cast: Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara); Clark Gable (Rhett Butler); Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes); Olivia De Havilland (Melanie Hamilton); Hattie McDaniel (Mammy); Thomas Mitchell (Gerald O'Hara); Barbara O'Neil (Ellen O'Hara); Caroll Nye (Frank Kennedy); Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pittypat); Harry Davenport (Dr. Meade); Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton); Ona Munson (Belle Watling); Ann Rutherford (Careen O'Hara); George Reeves (Stuart Tarleton), wrongly credited on screen as Brent Tarleton; Fred Crane (Brent Tarleton); Oscar Polk (Pork); Butterfly McQueen (Prissy); Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O'Hara); Jane Darwell (Mrs. Merriweather); Leona Roberts (Mrs. Meade); Everett Brown (Big Sam); Eddie Anderson (Uncle Peter); Ward Bond (Tom, a Yankee Captain); Cammie King (Bonnie Blue Butler); J. M. Kerrigan (Johnny Gallagher); Isabel Jewell (Emmy Slattery); Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes); Victor Jory (Jonas Wilkerson); Howard Hickman (John Wilkes); Mary Anderson (Maybelle Merriweather); Paul Hurst (Yankee Looter); Marcella Martin (Cathleen Calvert); Mickey Kuhn (Beau Wilkes); Zack Williams (Elijah).

Awards: Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (McDaniel), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography-Color, Best Editing, Interior Decoration, 1939; Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Special Awards to William Cameron Menzies for Color Achievement and to Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures for pioneering use of coordinated equipment, 1939; New York Film Critics' Award, Best Actress (Leigh), 1939.



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* * *

Gone with the Wind, based on Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel about the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, made producer David O. Selznick's name a box-office draw, made the relatively unknown Vivien Leigh an international star, and became the most popular motion picture of all time.

Soon after Selznick bought the movie rights to Mitchell's novel in July 1936, thousands of fan letters began to arrive at Selznick International Pictures, most of them demanding that Clark Gable play the role of Rhett Butler. In order to get Gable, Selznick had to make a deal with MGM and Louis B. Mayer, who held Gable's contract. In exchange for Gable's services and $1,125,000 of the film's budget, MGM would receive the distribution rights and half the profits of GWTW.

Since Selznick had a contract with United Artists to distribute all his films until the end of 1938, principal shooting on GWTW could not start before 1939. In order to maintain public interest in the film before shooting could begin, Selznick launched a nationwide talent search to find an unknown actress to play Scarlett O'Hara. In the course of the two-year search, 1400 candidates were interviewed and 90 were tested, at a total cost of $92,000. Among those considered for the part were Katharine Hepburn and Paulette Goddard. The role eventually went to Vivien Leigh, a British actress who was largely unknown to American audiences.

The production phase of GWTW began auspiciously in December 1938, with the Atlanta fire scene—the largest fire ever staged in a film up to that time. Principal shooting, which started six weeks later, was plagued by numerous problems and required seven months to complete. The main problem was the script, which despite the efforts of more than a dozen writers, remained a confusing mass of revisions, and revisions of revisions, until after shooting was completed. The disorganized condition of the script made shooting difficult and created tension among the production personnel. After only three weeks of principal shooting, Selznick replaced director George Cukor with Victor Fleming. Two months later, Fleming, upset by Selznick's handling of the script, went home and refused to work. Selznick quickly hired Sam Wood to direct and when Fleming decided to return to the film two weeks later, Selznick let the two men split the directorial chores.

When GWTW was finally completed, it turned out to be a monumental film in almost every respect. Its technical achievements included the Atlanta fire sequence, the use of matte paintings to provide distant backgrounds and to complete partially constructed sets (GWTW marked the second use in Technicolor film of the matte process in which painted backgrounds are blended with filmed scenes of live actors), and the railroad depot crane shot, in which the camera pulls back and up to reveal Scarlett O'Hara walking among thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers—about 2000 live extras and dummies. Its total cost was $4.25 million—equivalent to $50 million today. It had the longest running time (3 hours 40 minutes) of its day and the largest titles in cinema history—each word of the film's title fills the screen itself. It was also the first major film to successfully challenge the Production Code's prohibition of profanity—with Rhett Butler's final line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

When GWTW premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939, over one million people poured into the city of 300,000, hoping to see Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and the other stars who attended the premiere. After three days of parades, celebrations, and Confederate flag-waving, a select audience of 2500 people saw the film, and they loved it. GWTW quickly became a worldwide critical and box-office success and won ten Academy Awards, a record that stood until 1959, when Ben Hur won eleven.

As of 1983, GWTW has earned $76.7 million in domestic rentals. In 1976 NBC paid $5 million for the film's television premiere. The program, aired over two nights in November, 1976, received a 47.6 Neilsen rating—the highest rating ever received by a movie on television. CBS subsequently paid $35 million for 20 airings of GWTW over a 20-year period. When appropriate adjustments for inflation are made, GWTW is the biggest box-office success in cinema history. The current critical consensus is that GWTW is the quintessential Hollywood studio system product.

—Clyde Kelly Dunagan

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Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind






Margaret Mitchell, a descendant of the southern aristocracy of Atlanta, Georgia, and a former writer for the Atlanta Journal, was author of the 1, 037-page Pulitzer Prizewinning novel Gone with the Wind. The novel represented a culmination of her familys southern history, Atlantas local history, and the Souths reconstruction in the aftermath of the Civil War.


Depicted through the gaze of the novels protagonist, Gone with the Wind features Scarlett OHara, one of the most popular southern belles in Clayton County, Georgia. Scarlett is a woman with a determined spirit and uncompromising sensibility, willing to do whatever is necessary to survive and to maintain her home, the Tara plantation. In the turbulence of the Civil War, Scarletts love life is entangled when Melanie Hamilton marries the object of Scarletts desire, Ashley Wilkes. Disillusioned, Scarlett marries Melanies brother, Charles, but their marriage is short-lived due to his untimely death as a Confederate soldier. As the war continues, Melanie and Scarlett find themselves caring for wounded soldiers. Attacked by Yankee forces, both women are compelled to flee, Melanie with her newborn baby and Scarlett with her surrogate familyher black servant, Prissyan escape assisted by Rhett Butler, a blockade runner and outcast.

At Tara, Scarlett discovers that her mother died, and the plantation, with only a few faithful slaves, was nearly destroyed. In dire straits for money, Scarlett returns to Atlanta to secure funds from Rhett. Again, in an effort to save the plantation, she marries, this time her sisters fiancé. Exhibiting independence and entrepreneurship, Scarlett purchases and operates a lumber mill; this results in her becoming the victim of an attack and in her husbands death.

Although still maintaining her affection for Ashley, Scarlett reunites with Rhett and is provided with an enormous estate and luxuries. She has Rhetts child, a daughter (her third child, as she had two children in prior marriages), but the daughter is accidentally killed, devastating both Rhett and Scarlett. As the novel ends, Melanie, facing death, entrusts Scarlett with the care of Ashley, but now Scarlett recognizes that her real love is for Rhett. By this time, however, Rhett has lost his affection and respect for Scarlett, demonstrated by his dramatic exit at the novels end.

In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize and becoming a Book of the Month selection, Gone with the Wind sold over one million copies in its first year of publication. Its popularity as a literary work has been debated by a number of critics who attribute Mitchells success to her ability to infuse characters with captivating attributes; or to her ability to reconstruct southern history in an emotional and meaningful way from the perspective of a victim who is also a survivor; or to her ability to convey hope and optimism in the face of despair and defeat; or to its interdisciplinary appeal as a literary work to those interested in the military, in geography, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and in other fields.

Mitchells novel provided a response to the mythical view of the Lost Cause fueled by the defeat of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War and represented by the loss of wealth and power, as Atlanta was reduced to ruins. Despite the wealth formerly achieved from the Souths plantation economy and idealized by its glamorized past, Mitchells work responded to the Lost Cause myth through the assertiveness and aggressiveness of her protagonist, Scarletta character who symbolized that the South could emerge from its past degradation and despair.

In 1936, producer David O. Selznick purchased the screen rights to the novel for some $50, 000at that time one of the largest sums ever paid for a screenplay. The films production was complicated by changes in the director and scriptwriters, searches for appropriate actors, and other problems. Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, was reluctant to accept the role, although he was the publics popular choice. Scarlett OHara, played by British actress Vivien Leigh, won the role despite consideration of a number of widely known American actresses such as Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. The film cost some $4.25 million and ran well over 3 hours and 40 minutes. Appearing in the novel but not in the film were Scarletts first two children, Rhetts blockade activities and his relationship with Belle Watling, and the Ku Klux Klan.


Gone with the Wind was widely compared with the film Birth of a Nation (1915), based on Thomas Dixons novel The Clansman and produced by D. W. Griffith. Both films were Civil War epics, both were massive productions, both attempted to capitalize on historical facts, and both were regarded as controversial because of their racialized representations. These two films were also similar in sharing a common respect for the dramatization of American history by foregrounding the importance of romance and family. Birth of a Nation was nearly an attempt to embrace and resuscitate the past, while Gone with the Wind acknowledged the past from which it was fleeing and utilized this past as a means to reconstruct a new future and a new identity.

Both films endured censorship difficulties, with Birth of a Nation facing numerous censor boards prior to its exhibition because of its racial politics. Gone with the Wind challenged the Production Codes profanity restrictions with Butlers famous line, Frankly, my dear, I dont give a damn. Birth of a Nation spawned riots in some northern cities and invited protests. Gone with the Wind, in comparison, elicited protests even prior to its completion and raised the ire of black newspapers.


Carlton Moss, an African American dramatist, submitted a letter to Selznick in 1940 that appeared in the Daily Worker. The letter outlined the racial insults committed by Gone with the Wind and suggested that it fabricated the myths that blacks were not concerned with freedom and that they lacked the innate ability to govern themselves. These views were echoed by members of the black press. The New York Amsterdam News described Gone with the Wind as the pus oozing from beneath the scab of a badly healed wound. The Chicago Defender charged that the film glorified slavery and depicted the black male as a grotesque and ravishing beast. The Crisis expressed its objections to the films racial epithets. These offenses were further compounded when black actress Hattie McDaniel was not invited to attend Gone with the Wind s Atlanta premiere in December 1939. In spite of such derision, McDaniel received an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role as Mammy, becoming the first African American to receive this award.

The mainstream press was much more enamored with the film. The New York Times claimed that while the picture may not have been the greatest motion picture ever made, it was the greatest motion mural seen and the most ambitious film-making venture in Hollywoods history. Other critics noted that the film was extremely well cast and acted with costuming above reproach; the interior sets are first rate; [and] much of the Technicolor photography is beautiful. The films overwhelming reception, coupled with its movie attendance records, was further testament to its appeal and popularity. When Gone with the Wind premiered, some 55 million people reported that they intended to see it. Over one million people traveled to Atlanta for the films premier, which was accompanied by parades and celebrations. Added to these accolades, the film won ten Academy Awards, including an award for best picture.


Gone with the Wind was a powerful force in garnering sympathy for the South in the postbellum period. One critic suggested that even northerners stood to be influenced by this southern mythology to the extent that though the North and South were once divided, northerners were now willing to join southern forces and whistle Dixie. The films impact continues to evolve with subsequent releases. The impact of both the novel and the film is further apparent when the Mitchell estate commissioned Alexandra Ripley to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, titled Scarlett and published in 1991. This novel was also transformed into a 1994 television miniseries, but it met with much less success. Variety stated that viewers best hope, however, is to try to forget that classic book and film, and approach Scarlett for what it is: an eight-hour bodice-ripper.

Interest in the novel was reignited when Alice Randall published The Wind Done Gone in 2000, described as a parody of Gone with the Wind. Randalls work challenges the views propagated by Gone with the Wind by creating characters antithetical to those in the previous work. The Wind Done Gone provoked controversy, with many critics claiming that Randall infringed on the copyright of the 1936 novel. In a legal dispute to prevent the publication of Randalls work, the court found it to be distinctly different from Gone with the Wind in that it explored the intersection of race and sex and defied the myth of black savagery and primitivism.

Both the novel and the film continue to surface in contemporary discussions and debates, with the film becoming a part of Hollywood legend and the novel becoming an integral part of the American literary canon. Gone with the Wind has solidified its place in American history and cinemacapturing and marking historical moments that deserve to be returned to again and again.

SEE ALSO Birth of a Nation; Confederate States of America; Ku Klux Klan; Plantation; Politics, Southern; Racism; Reconstruction Era (U.S.); Slavery; South, The (USA); U.S. Civil War



Farr, Finis. 1965. Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. New York: Morrow.

Hanson, Elizabeth I. 1990. Margaret Mitchell. Boston: Twayne.

Harwell, Richard, ed. 1983. Gone with the Wind as Book and Film. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Mitchell, Margaret. 1936. Gone with the Wind. New York: Macmillan.

Pyron, Darden Asbury. 1983. Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture. Miami: University Presses of Florida.

Ripley, Alexandra. 1991. Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchells Gone with the Wind. New York: Warner Books.

Young, Elizabeth. 1999. Disarming the Nation: Womens Writing and the American Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Dunagan, Clyde Kelly. 1990. Gone with the Wind. In International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers-1 Films, 2nd ed., ed. Nicholas Thomas and James Vinson, 350352. Chicago and London: St. James Press.


Burks, Ruth Elizabeth. 2004. Gone with the Wind : Black and White in Technicolor. Quarterly Review of Film and Video 21: 5373.

Leff, Leonard J. 1984. David Selznicks Gone with the Wind : The Negro Problem. Georgia Review 38 (1): 146164.

Pyron, Darden Asbury. 1986. Gone with the Wind and the Southern Cultural Awakening. Virginia Quarterly Review 62 (4): 565587.

Reddick, L. D. 1937. Review of Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Journal of Negro History 22 (3): 363366.

Stevens, John D. 1973. The Black Reaction to Gone with the Wind. Journal of Popular Film 2 (4): 366371.

Charlene Regester

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Gone with the Wind


GONE WITH THE WIND. Both the novel (1936) and the motion picture (1939) are significant icons of the 1930s, revealing a great deal about the decade of the Great Depression. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1936. Gone With the Wind depicts important intellectual and cultural developments. First, the "Lost Cause" conceptthe romantic tragedy of the Confederacy's defeat in the Civil Warwas popular with the public and academic community in the South. The notion that Yankee capitalism had defeated the South's genteel plantation life naturally led to the second equally popular ideathe "Needless War" doctrine. According to this theory, abolitionists, with their fixation on slavery, had caused the conflict between the states. These sentiments, alone and in combination, contributed to the myth that the South was a gracious but doomed alternative to heartless modern

America. Slavery and the role of African Americans in the Civil War were ignored in the popular culture and by many historians. Despite protests from the African American press, black entertainers were assigned their traditional roles as either villains or clowns, though actress Hattie McDaniel did win an Academy Award for her role in the film. The hardships of the Great Depression and the coming of World War II, which prompted a bitter struggle between isolationists and internationalists, added to the distant charm of the Old South as portrayed in Gone With the Wind.

The novel by Margaret Mitchell was an instant success. Published by Macmillan in 1936, the 1,057-page tome was a hymn to the Lost Cause, despite the author's intent to combine an F. Scott Fitzgerald approach with historical recreation. The book sold more than fifty thousand copies in a single day, was a bestseller for two years, and, by 1965, had sold more than 12 million authorized copies.

Mitchell was born in Atlanta in 1900 to an established Georgia family. She grew up with tales of the Lost Cause and a romantic ideal of the Civil War. Well-educated and witty, she wrote for newspapers and magazines. She married twice but had no children. A delightful storyteller, she was a gracious presence on the Atlanta social scene. With the novel's great success, Mitchell was thereafter known as the author of Gone With the Wind. She never wrote another novel and directed that upon her death most of her literary manuscripts be destroyed. Mitchell died in 1949 after she was struck by a speeding automobile.

Selznick International Pictures bought the screen rights to Gone With the Wind for $50,000. The classic motion picture features a moving musical score and talented cast, including Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia De Havilland, and Leslie Howard. The movie had a spectacular debut in Atlanta in 1939 and continued to be a leading money producer long after its release. Filled with assumptions of the Lost Cause and the Needless War doctrine, the movie does not ignore the sexual tension between the heroine and the hero. The movie has a minor but clear feminist subtext.

Historical interpretations come and go but, undoubtedly, Gone With the Wind endures as a monument to the Lost Cause. It is also a product of the 1930s, when many Americans sought an escape from the twin horrors of economic depression and the impending European war. Though not great literature, the story endures as a vital example of how some Americans prefer to think about the Civil War.


Harwell, Richard. Gone With the Wind, as Book and Film. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1983. Good collection of contemporary reviews and essays.

Pressly, Thomas. Americans Interpret Their Civil War. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954. A brilliant analysis of how historical interpretations interact with other aspects of the culture.

Pyron, Darden Asbury, ed. Recasting "Gone With the Wind" American Culture. Miami: University Presses of Florida, 1983. A far-ranging analysis of how the novel and movie fit into American culture.

Pyron, Darden Asbury. Southern Daughter, The Life of Margaret Mitchell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. A solid biographical study.

Donald K. Pickens

See also Film ; Literature: Popular Literature .

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gone with the wind

gone with the wind from Ernest Dowson ‘I have forgot much, Cynara, gone with the wind’ (1896); subsequently popularized by the title of Margaret Mitchell's novel (1936) on the American Civil War.

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